My husband and I live in an amazing neighbourhood with many good friends scattered throughout. We have a lot of fun here, but sometimes it can be challenging when people aren’t cooperative or friendly.
For instance, there was this grumpy man who lived on the corner of my street. He would never say hello or even make eye contact. He definitely never raked up his lawn trimmings. Instead, he would sweep them out onto the street, which not only made a big mess but was also very slippery for bike riding.
There was also a young man who lived across the street. He had questionable friends and a very loud car that woke everyone up in the middle of the night. Of course, there were always the few who walked with EarPods stuffed in their ears, refusing to look at you and say hi and those who didn’t keep up with their lawn and garden. We mustn’t forget the ones who called the city or police on any minor infringement. Oh… and there were the neighbourhood gossips always stirring up trouble.
One day, I sensed the Lord calling me to pray for my neighbourhood. It began rather irregularly. Coincidentally, our church started a book study together called “Backyard Pilgrim” by Matt Canlis. It described a simple, yet profound perspective on walking through your neighbourhood, praying as you go. I took this practice up. As I walked, sometimes I would be drawn to a particular home, its occupants completely unknown to me, and pray a blessing over it. Other times, it was a more generalized prayer for the whole community.
Over time, an extraordinary thing happened. I began to notice people seemed more friendly. The grumpy man on the corner wasn’t really that grumpy. In fact, he is making eye contact now. The young man with the car is actually quite a friendly guy, always waving as he drives by with his loud muffler. I began to realize I don’t need to take it personally when people don’t say hello to me. The Holy Spirit began to nudge me to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are merely preoccupied or listening to a podcast. Perhaps I should just pray for them as they walk by.
People are rarely grumpy or unfriendly for no reason. There’s always a story of some sort behind a person’s demeanour. So often, they have endured some kind of difficulty that I don’t have a clue about. Sometimes folks have just had a different upbringing than me, including a completely different way of life in another country before I ever encountered them.
It has been incredibly humbling to realize that God has placed me in my neighbourhood to bear witness to him and the Way of Jesus in every day life. While this can sometimes be challenging, it has become a tremendous privilege to experience the gift of friendship and doing life together.
The Lord is always reminding me that every person is made in his image and each one has such immeasurable value in God’s kingdom, whether they know him or not. This is beyond comprehension and yet is the most beautiful thing to behold.
And by the way, it is not lost on me that while I have been praying for God to transform my neighbourhood, it was really me who needed a renewed understanding of kingdom life. I am grateful for the tender graciousness of the Holy Spirit.